This weekend was COLD at The Cove! The weather brought our first serious 5 inches of snow and a low of -21 degrees. We hope you’re reading this post from the warmth of your home, snuggled up with a good book and hot cocoa in front of a blazing fire.
Although I froze my tail off this morning, I wanted to share a few stunning views. I was cold, but it was all good because a pair of golden eagles and a bald eagle soared overhead to keep me company!
Fun Fact: Eagles are warm-blooded like us so they need to eat more to create energy when it is cold outside. Eagles also stay warm in the winter by their many feathers. Eagles have more than 7,000 feathers on their body that weigh up to a pound — that’s 10-12% of their total body weight. Overlapping feathers create a dense layer that protects them in extremely cold weather. Under those large, shiny, waterproof feathers are layers of smaller, downy feathers that act like a down blanket. When the eagle is cold, it can angle its feathers “closed” trapping the body heat inside. They can “puff up” their feathers, which further insulates them. An eagle’s feet don’t get too cold because they are mostly tendon.
If you do visit the park soon, please be careful and drive slowly, the roads are plowed but very slick.
What do high school seniors and first graders have in common? It might surprise you!
You may remember last year Culver High School S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) class designed and built a hydroelectric powered paddle-wheel that will power a portion of the Crooked River Campground. Well they did not stop there.
This year teacher Mike Dove, Culver High School, is leading his AP biology class into the dark and mysterious world of bats. Mr. Dove invited me to be a guest speaker on local bats for his class. What an amazing group of students! With their new found knowledge the seniors were inspired to create their own power points to share; then took a trip to Culver Elementary School and visited Mrs. Dix’s first grade class. Peer teaching is an amazing way to learn about how cool bats are. This is the first of several times the two classes will work together. Next, the first graders will visit Culver High School wood shop and build bat houses; which will ultimately be hung at The Cove Palisades State Park near the Crooked River Campground.
There are more than 1,000 different species of bats in the world, the only mammal capable of self flight; but these misunderstood and often feared creatures have been vilified by western cultures for hundreds of years. Over seventy percent of bats are insectivores and save humans millions of dollars annually from crop damage, prevent the unhealthy spread of West Nile Virus, provide organic fertilizer for gardeners, pollinate plants that we depend on for medicine and so much more. Central Oregon is home to thirteen species of bats, the most common is the Little Brown Bat (myotis lucifugus). MYTH BUSTER: Bats are blind? False – They actually see quite well and they use Ecolocation to find their prey.
As the students continue their journey, I will be sharing it with you. Please follow along and visit the new bat area in the park late next spring.
November’s full moon is known as the Beaver Moon.
According to the Farmer’s Almanac, Full Moon names date back to Native Americans, of what is now the northern and eastern United States. The tribes kept track of the seasons by giving distinctive names to each recurring full Moon. Their names applied to the entire month in which each occurred. There was some variation in the Moon names, but in general, the same ones were current throughout the Algonquin tribes from New England to Lake Superior. European settlers followed that custom and created some of their own names.
November was known as the time to set beaver traps before the swamps froze, to ensure a supply of warm winter furs. According to National Geographic, it could also be attributed to the “heavy activity of beavers building their winter dams.”
It is sometimes also referred to as the Frosty Moon.
Get ready to see an incredible night light.
A comet, an icy ball of solar system debris, is simply a “dirty snowball” hurtling through space. As it heats up from the sun, gasses extend behind it; the comet’s body, called a “nucleus” appears to develop a tail, called a “coma.” This is due to the effects of solar radiation and the solar wind upon the nucleus of the comet.
Comet ISON was first discovered by Russian amateur astronomers Vitali Nevski and Artyom Novichonok in September 2012. The comet is officially designated C/2012 S1 (ISON), with ISON standing for International Scientific Optical Network. It had a bit of a disappointing start but ISON is now visible to the naked eye and it appears to be getting brighter the closer it gets to the sun. The peak is predicted for November 28th. Will it be something else to be thankful for? ISON certainly has the potential to be “the comet of the century.” According to the Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers, ISON is now shining at a magnitude +6.1.
photo: Peninsula Astronomical Society
NBC News Science REPORTS, “The comet is rapidly approaching its Nov. 28 perihelion and as a result it is becoming more and more difficult to observe low near the east-southeast horizon in the dawn sky. Still, observers with access to a clear horizon may be able to follow ISON for about another week.”
Next Monday morning (Nov. 18), ISON will be passing close to the bright 1st magnitude star Spica in Virgo. Using the handle of the Big Dipper, sweep an arc to the brilliant orange star Arcturus. Then continue that arc on to Spica. Using binoculars, ISON should still be readily be visible as a fuzzy star with a short tail. Good luck night sky watchers!
photo: Starry Skies Software
Hi, my name is Ranger Erin Bennett. I am the new interpretive park ranger at The Cove Palisades State Park and will be the new voice of the Cove Rattler. I am extremely excited to be here to share the park’s stories and special places with you.
By way of introduction I’d like to share a little about myself, I have worked in parks since 1995 in both California and Oregon. I am currently finishing my degree in Natural Resource Management. I have experience in wildland firefighting, law enforcement, emergency medical aid, resource and wildlife management, interpretation, noxious week removal, facility and trail maintenance, special events and volunteer projects. I am a Certified Interpretive Guide (NAI) and a nationally certified EMT. I started volunteering for Oregon State Parks in 2009 by leading Fort Rock Cave Tours and participating in the Eagle Watch program here at The Cove. I loved my last four seasons at Prineville Reservoir as the seasonal interpreter (if you haven’t visited, I urge you to go check it out!) and now I have the privilege of being part of the team here at The Cove.
“So what is interpretation?” I am often asked … Technically interpretation is defined as a mission-based process that forges emotional and intellectual connections between the interests of the audience and the meanings inherent in the resource; while others say it’s environmental education. For me interpretation is the ability to share the importance of our cultural and historic past and the wonders of our natural world with the visitors that come to my park. It may be discovering the ancient mysteries along the Tam-A-Lau trail, sharing pioneer stories over a campfire while enjoying Dutch oven treats while the sun sets behind Mount Jefferson or exploring the park in a different light and indulging in a bat buffet (no bats are ever harmed for this program). Some of my favorite visitors are our Junior Rangers. Kids see the world differently than most adults and never cease to amaze me with their excitement at discovery, insightful questions and willingness to teach others. Interpretation also means I’m lucky enough to get to play at work!
For those of you that visit the Cove next summer the interpretive programs and special events will be a mix of old favorites and new adventures. I will be posting more specifics next spring. If you have questions, or suggestions for programs that you and your family would like to see here at the Cove, please email me at email@example.com or call me at 541-546-3412. I look forward to warm weather, meeting you all and lots and lots of fun!
Stay tuned for the next Cove Rattler post… What do high school seniors and first-graders have in common? You might be surprised!
Whoo boy, has this been a stormy summer at the Cove! This little monster rolled through and dropped marble-sized hail, some rain, and plenty of wind. Fortunately for the park, storms leave as quickly as they arrive and she was gone before she did any damage. Those amazing lumpy clouds are known as “mammatus” clouds!
Last week I posted a Feather Identification Challenge and for those of you that have taken it, click “Read the Rest” to see if you answered correctly! If you haven’t taken it yet and would like to, go to that post by clicking on the link in the first sentence. When you’re finished, come back to this one to test your feather skills. Read the rest of this entry
Today I have a challenge for you, our wonderful readers!
I have several feathers from our collection for you to identify.
Here’s a sneak peak of #1. Click “Read the Rest” to see the others! Read the rest of this entry
If you’ve ever been to Central Oregon, you know that the landscape is dominated mostly by dry shrubs. More rightfully a “sagebrush steppe” than a “high desert,” the Cove has plenty of sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata). It’s a plant that gets overlooked easily because it isn’t flashy, but it’s one that thrives in conditions where many other cannot, making it a pretty amazing species.
Sagebrush is in the genus Artemisia, after the Greek goddess Artemis, which is actually in the sunflower family! Sagebrush is very different from sage, which is in the genus Salvia and includes the kinds of sages you’d use as edible spices. Sagebrush is not palatable except to pronghorn antelope and some other native critters, although it was used medicinally by First Nation tribes.
Since sagebrush lives in arid climates, it has several adaptations to help it conserve water. One is the small size of the leaves. Another is the tiny gray hairs that make the leaves feel fuzzy: these reflect sunlight and help keep water near the leaf’s surface, keeping the plant cooler. Sagebrush also grows small, temporary leaves in the spring which it will later drop to conserve energy when water is less available.
Sagebrush is an important plant for – surprise! – the Greater Sage Grouse. If you don’t know much about this bird, you’re in for a treat, because they are simply amazing creatures. The second largest game bird in North America, the Sage Grouse is in a lot of trouble – its numbers have been declining for decades due to habitat loss and it’s on the list of considered species for the Endangered Species Act.
Sage Grouse survive solely on the leaves of sagebrush during the winter, and they need to store a lot of energy for their mating ritual. Up to a hundred males may gather in a clearing amidst the sagebrush called a “lek,” and they’ll “dance” for days in an attempt to win the affections of the females. This dance involves strutting with their feathers out and inflating special air sacs that, when emptied, sound almost like a coffee percolator! If you’ve never had the pleasure to see it, check out the little video below. Check out those females playing it cool by pretending to snack while they size up the boys.
Look for this amazing plant all over the Cove, and if you spot it, be sure to rub a leaf between your fingers – sagebrush releases a strong, almost menthol-like scent that some people find delightful. Think of the Sage Grouse, which fills it belly happily with those leaves all winter long. Happy sagebrush hunting!